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Small business retailer shares leadership perspective

Leanne Hoagland-Smith. | Provided photo~Sun-Times Media

Leanne Hoagland-Smith. | Provided photo~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: October 27, 2013 11:24AM



The columns this past month emphasized customer service because repeat customers provide long-term sustainable results. Nowhere is that more evident than with local small businesses, such as Seasons on the Square in Valparaiso, that must compete on the same playing field with national chain stores.

I had the opportunity to speak with Donna Phelps, who bought Seasons on the Square in 2003.

For the last 10 years, Seasons continues to be a vibrant retail anchor for downtown Valparaiso by specializing in women’s contemporary casual to cocktail clothing along with accessories. As a leader, Phelps extends her time beyond Seasons to include: Delta Theta Tau, FAWN and Valparaiso Chamber Board of Directors.

Q: Would you please share five words or phrase to describe a leader?

A: 1. Honesty

2. Communicator

3. Listener

4. Decisive

5. Delegator

Q: How much do positive core values play in the role of being a leader?

A: “To be effective a leader must rely on their core value of honesty, which will:

• Keep them focused to communicate their goals and vision.

• Listen for ideas to find better solutions to problems or projects.

• Guidance to make smarter Decisions

• Direction to Delegate tasks to achieve their goals.”

Q: What has been the one most consistent or repetitive challenge you have faced in any of your leadership roles?

A: “The patience to follow the core values. Many times, it is far easier to ‘do,’ than it is to ‘delegate!’”

Q: For Northwest Indiana to be a viable business community, is there one action that could be taken to jump-start the economy?

A: “I believe Northwest Indiana is a viable community. I do not believe I am qualified to give an expert opinion on the state of the economy. However, I believe strongly that we do not need another ‘jump-start!’ That is a familiar suggestion during a downturn, but usually results in a temporary fix. Our community needs to set and follow a strategic plan to build a stronger work force.

“I believe our business and education communities must develop training programs that provide students and employees the skills to attain high paying technical careers. A traditional high school and college education may not the right path for some students. That is where technical and skilled labor training would be benefit the community and economy.

“As a business owner it is necessary set and then follow long and short term budgets and goals. I believe those basics are necessary to manage our economy.”

Q: Any thoughts or words of wisdom you can to share?

A: “First, no small business is successful without a great team of employees. Much of the success to Seasons is because of our friendly, dedicated and loyal staff. Second and equally important comes from one of my favorite quotes by Johnny Carson who said, ‘Isn’t it funny that the harder you work the luckier you get!’”

Here in Northwest Indiana we have many leaders. I appreciate Phelps taking the time to share her thoughts about leadership respective to the retail small business community.

The monthly theme for November will be business ethics, because it is a time of Thanksgiving.



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